Have you ever been in the mountains? There is something wonderful, being on top of a peak, with the fresh air blowing all around you. Everything seems to be in its right place. Order and wonder are your companions. God seems very near.
On Mount Sinai, Moses is hearing the LORD speaking as if friend to friend. God whispers all the glorious plans, the beautiful plans, for sacred worship. As the fragrant breeze of the mountain flowers waft by Moses, formulas for incense are given. As the crystal clear mountain stream bubble by, Moses hears about the possibility of washing clean the sin and stench of the world in order to have a meeting with the Holy One. The higher Moses climbs, the holier the Words of God become...and the holier life around him becomes.
"You will be most holy, this will be most holy, to Me."
But sooner or later, even Moses must come down from that mountain. One must leave the intimacy of God and face the reality of life.
Often times, after the brightness of the mountain sun, the valley seems much deeper and darker. The dank stench of communal life insults the nostrils. The calf worshiping indulgences of evil appall one after the simplicity and purity of the peak. There is a natural abhorrence, an anger, when we return to our old normal lives.
While Moses was away, leaving Aaron to babysit the children of Israel, the children went wild. Moses returns from his date with God, only to find the living room of the camp defiled, the holy places destroyed and the kids running around in a frenzy.
As parent Moses tries to figure out what went wrong, Aaron, like a teenager, states one of the funniest and saddest excuses in scripture. "You know how kids are. This is what the kids wanted."
They gave me gold, I threw it in the fire and out popped this calf!
So to whom do I relate in this story?
Am I Moses, who hears from the Lord, delighting in the intimacy, yet having to deal with "real life" most of the time?
Am I Aaron, part of a leadership team, who has to deal with the restless natives, exhausted and tired of doing the work on my own and finally giving in to the pressures around me?
Am I the restless child of God, who becomes impatient when I don't see what I need or get what I want, and thus indulge in cheap idolatry as a substitute for true worship?
Life is always so much easier on the mountain.
Life on the streets is tough.
Yet we are called to be a fragrant offering to the LORD in whatever situation we find ourselves.
Most holy to God...